Joliet-area hospitals and doctors back health-care ruling
By Janet Lundquist firstname.lastname@example.org June 28, 2012 4:26PM
Richard Dahms, Shorewood
“I am not in favor of the situation, to say it nicely.”
“To me, everybody needs health care. That’s No. 1. I know it’s necessary for all human beings on the planet to have some type of affordable health care. We know the government was put in place to assist the citizens of the country they reside in.”
Updated: July 30, 2012 6:19AM
Thursday’s Supreme Court decision on the Affordable Care Act was huge, for health care and for politics.
Local doctors and hospitals seem to think the law is a good start, even if it has some faults.
The decision was an important victory for President Barack Obama, as the court upheld the most disputed part of his law — the mandate that most everyone obtain health insurance or pay a fine.
Besides upholding the mandate, which would start in 2014, the decision reinforced some provisions of the act that already are in place — that people can stay on their parents’ insurance until age 26; that insurers can’t deny coverage to children with pre-existing conditions; it eliminates limits on how much policies will pay out to each person over a lifetime; it improves Medicare prescription benefits for older people; and it eliminates co-payments for preventive care for all ages.
Lawrence Schilder, medical director of the hematology/oncology department of the University of Chicago Cancer Center at Silver Cross Hospital, was skeptical that the plan will work as-is.
“One thing is clear: You’ll have to shoehorn everyone without insurance into Medicaid and then give money to states to cover the costs,” he said. “My prediction is everyone will be paid less, because you’ll be covering the same or more people with less money.”
But it is good to see that someone is trying to fix the health care system, he said.
“The system before wasn’t working. There are lots and lots of people who are under the age of 65 who have no insurance even if they’re working,” Schilder said. “Lots of things aren’t covered. A lot of new and innovative treatments aren’t covered. I’m glad somebody tackled this problem.”
A good start
Theodore Kanellakes, a Joliet doctor who is on the board of directors of the Will Grundy Medical Society, said the law isn’t perfect, but it’s a beginning.
There are a lot of good things in the law that would not be feasible without the mandate that everyone obtain insurance, he said.
“The climate we have here in Will County, we have a lot of people who are unemployed, they’re under-employed, they have lost health care coverage completely or they have coverage that is sort of like a Band-Aid, not enough,” Kanellakes said. “Deductibles are sky high, they can’t afford care.
“No one likes change. It’s the unknown,” he said. “But you can’t continue with the current system. There’s no way.”
Presence Health, which owns Provena Saint Joseph Medical Center, issued a statement supporting the decision.
“We have made significant investments in (the Affordable Care Act) implementation to enhance quality and expand access to care. We are pleased that access to affordable health care coverage will be available to all,” said Sandra Bruce, president and CEO of Presence Health.
Silver Cross Hospital in New Lenox took a similar stance.
“Today’s Supreme Court decision lifts a heavy burden for area residents who need access to health coverage,” a statement released by the hospital said. “Now, the entire healthcare community — hospitals, physicians, patients and purchasers, must work together to implement even better-coordinated, high-quality care.”
Even more significant than the individual mandate is the fact that the ruling left it up to individual states to decide how they will handle the legislation’s requirement to expand Medicaid coverage, one Northern Illinois University professor said.
The Affordable Care Act requires states to expand Medicaid so it is available to low-income patients, not just the elderly. But the Supreme Court ruling states the federal government cannot withhold Medicaid funding from a state if the state legislature decides to forgo the expansion.
Local residents should keep their eye on Springfield, said James Ciesla, a professor of public health in the NIU School of Nursing and Health Studies.
“Illinois is having fiscal trouble, we have to wait and see how Illinois responds and what Illinois is going to be required to do and pay for vs. what they’re going to opt to do,” Ciesla said. “That’s an issue for people who are long-term unemployed or low-income who might be eligible for Medicaid.”
State Rep. Tom Cross, R-Oswego, mentioned that issue in a statement Thursday.
“We have made tremendous efforts this year in Illinois to reduce our state-run healthcare program, because we could no longer afford to provide the services that were once promised. Today’s Supreme Court decision affirms a federal law that has the potential to pile billions of dollars of additional expenses into our state budget that we cannot afford,” Cross said in the statement. “We are encouraging Congress to repeal Obamacare at the federal level as soon as possible, and provide Illinois the ability to administer an efficient Medicaid program.”